Mentorship: Adding invaluable outside skills to your business

Entrepreneurs are often exposed to duties, situations, problems and opportunities that many have never had to face before. Entrepreneurs also rarely have someone to discuss common problems with, or to turn to, for objective advice and honest feedback and this can sometimes lead entrepreneurs to feel like they have the loneliest job in the world.

According to Nimo Naidoo, project manager of the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, a mentor will not only help an entrepreneur avoid isolation, but also become someone that he or she can confide in, as well as share uncertainties or successes.

She says that it is rare to find entrepreneurs who possess all the right qualities to make a business tick. “Entrepreneurs could be technically strong, yet lack financial knowledge, which is a vital cog in a business.

“Cash flow management, procurement and information analysis are just some of the challenges that specialised entrepreneurs find themselves facing in today’s complex business environment – which contains many risks that determine a business’ success or failure. Highly skilled in their own fields of expertise, entrepreneurs sometimes find themselves floundering when it comes to the overall management of their companies, and working with a mentor will effectively close these gaps.”

Naidoo adds that often many business owners just don’t know where or who to turn to for assistance and this is when a mentor can be so valuable, particularly when a business is in financial or operational difficulty and needs turnaround management in order to become profitable again.

“A mentor is able to provide specialist skills, not only when urgently required, but also as a preventive measure to ensure the entrepreneur doesn’t find himself in a challenging situation.”

While mentorship is a relatively new concept in the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector, there is a growing trend among entrepreneurs for industry-related mentors, due to the immense value they are able to offer an independent business, says Naidoo.

“For the first time ever, entrepreneurs have access to the same skills and experience that the country’s biggest businesses have and are able to harness the skills of experienced business and professional people to assist them in the successful management of their businesses.”

When seeking a mentor, it is important for entrepreneurs to look for experienced business professionals in the same business, or industry, as their company, or someone who has accomplished similar goals. “Selecting someone who has relevant knowledge and experience will not only help entrepreneurs get their business to where they envision it being, but will also accelerate their own learning and growth as an entrepreneur,” concludes Naidoo.